When Edgar Maddison Welch stepped into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria Sunday armed with an AR-15, he told police he was there to rescue children from a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief, John Podesta. Fortunately, when he found no such children, Welch surrendered to the police without shooting anything but a locked door, and no one was injured. But that particular fake-news conspiracy theory, which began on 4chan shortly before the election, was widely promoted by Alex Jones, the controversial radio host and founder of Infowars, his conspiratorial website that often publishes fake news. Jones and Infowars also heavily promoted the candidacy of President-elect Donald Trump, who has appeared on Jones’s internet TV show and promoted some of his site’s content. At the end of an interview with Jones in 2015, Trump told him, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Welch was also a fan: He “liked” both Jones and Infowars on his Facebook page, and he told the New York Times after he was arrested that he also listened to Jones’ radio show. “He’s a bit eccentric,” Welch said. “He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.” He also told the Times that the 9/11 terror attacks called for further investigation—a common refrain from Jones. And while Welch joins more than 2 million people who “like” Jones and Infowars, he also is part of a much smaller number of Jones’ fans who have committed acts of violence in the pursuit of a kooky political theory given currency by Jones. Among other things, Jones believes the US government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. He has called the mass shooting of children at Sandy Hook elementary school “a giant hoax“; believes the government has set up hundreds of FEMA concentration camps and is deploying juice boxes to “encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don’t have children.” A number of high-profile shooters are known to have had a fondness for Jones’ work and some of his favorite conspiracy theories. At least three were active commenters on Infowars. That’s not to say Jones caused the violence or even encouraged it. (He did not respond to requests for comment.) But the shooters do appear to share similar tastes in political news and opinions.